• Save the date for SSTI's 2024 Annual Conference

    Join us December 10-12 in Arizona to connect with and learn from your peers working around the country to strengthen their regional innovation economies. Visit ssticonference.org for more information and sign up to receive updates.

  • Become an SSTI Member

    As the most comprehensive resource available for those involved in technology-based economic development, SSTI offers the services that are needed to help build tech-based economies.  Learn more about membership...

  • Subscribe to the SSTI Weekly Digest

    Each week, the SSTI Weekly Digest delivers the latest breaking news and expert analysis of critical issues affecting the tech-based economic development community. Subscribe today!

L.A. Follows Trend of Harbor Redevelopment with $155m Tech Cluster Project

July 24, 2013

The city of Los Angeles is working with a consortium of public and private partners to redevelop unused docklands into space that will support new industry cluster development. The project highlights a trend of high-profile projects across the country, with cities like Brooklyn and Philadelphia repurposing dockside warehouse space to seed tech startups and advanced manufacturing.

A 100-year old dock in Los Angeles is being developed as an urban marine research and business park. The development is a public-private collaboration between the Port of Los Angeles, the Annenberg Foundation, and a host of regional universities. The development will be used to focus on an untapped niche in ocean science, turning the LA waterfront into a global center for the study of the effects of climate change on coastal cities, according to the publication Nature.

U.S. ports currently are experiencing a boom in production and profits as global trade continues to expand. However, like many other industries in the U.S., the growth of ports is contributing to a "jobless recovery" as harbor operators increase production and profits with automated processes that increase productivity and efficiency while shedding employees. The port of Tampa illustrates the problem. The port of Tampa nearly has doubled its economic impact over the past seven years, but at the same time is generating fewer jobs according to the Tampa Tribune. Revenues for the companies that operate the port are up, but fewer jobs are required to do the jobs needed to keep the port operating. In 2006, it was reported that 96,451 jobs were tied to the port. Today, that number is 80,216.

The result of this trend is that city ports in the U.S., despite growth in production and profits, do not need to reclaim the warehouse dockyards that have been left vacant by decades of de-industrialization. Public authorities have seized the opportunity and are redeveloping unused harbor space to attract tech companies and manufacturers. Recent projects in Los Angeles, Brooklyn, and Philadelphia illustrate the power that redeveloped ports have to catalyze urban renewal and boost the development of new industry clusters.

The Brooklyn Navy Yard has led the charge in the redevelopment of port space, attracting tech startups and additive manufacturers to the once-booming industrial docklands. Not only has the space been used to create thousands of jobs, but the Navy Yard has served as one of the defining stories of the successful "Made in Brooklyn" campaign that has reinvigorated the city's national image and attracted young entrepreneurs from across the country.

The city of Philadelphia currently is building toward a similar vision for the redevelopment of its port. Current plans include upgrading facilities by dredging the Delaware River and improving connections to local interstates, a move that local planners expect will triple the harbor's workforce. But Philadelphia's plans also include intensive redevelopment of abandoned buildings and piers to attract tech startups and advanced manufacturing.

The redevelopment of the San Pedro dockyards in Los Angeles into a research center and business park has been christened AltaSea, and will house labs with circulating seawater, offices, lecture halls, and classrooms. One of the first tenants to sign on is the newly minted Southern California Marine Institute, a research alliance of 11 major regional universities that will share research space that explores solutions to urban-ocean problems like runoff, reef devastation, and climate change. Currently, AltaSea is in the process of raising the $155 million needed to complete the first phase of construction, slated for completion in 2018. The Port of Los Angeles has contributed $32 million to upgrade the dockyards and the Annenberg Foundation has donated $25 million to kick-start construction. A second phase of development would be completed over a 20-year period and bring the total cost of the project to $500 million.

Californiametros, clusters, manufacturing